Thursday, 5 April 2012

Prelude to the Departure

Sushila Ahwong’s Australia Day Proclamation, which she read on the landing at Admiralty House, Sydney, is widely acknowledged as the first key milestone event in impacting the Departure that followed.

Inhabitants of Australia
(which is a European name for a European country
permitted from 1788 until now to exist outside of Europe)
I’m speaking to you this evening
in your language
on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of these lands
the first peoples of these lands
the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders as many of you
know us.

As you may be aware
our Elders have been meeting in a council this month
meeting to ensure
on this matter of the greatest significance to all of us
that every opinion and point of view among us gets its fair

The Elders have asked me to deliver this statement to you on
their behalf.

We have known our respective lands since Dreaming.
We respect those dreams.
We respect that duty which falls on all humans and tribes who
the responsibility to keep our land whole
to look after it and the living things in it and on it
and the living things in the sky and in the sea.

Settlers came to these lands uninvited.
That is understandable.
Often a guest comes uninvited
and yet we welcome the guest who we did not need to ask for
a visit.
The settlers stayed in this country uninvited
and without discussing terms with us
or with the lands we keep.
You made up lies like terra nullius
some of which you have retracted since
but you settlers never settled terms with us.

Now the harm is too great.
Now we know that there is no prospect of settlement with the
Now we know
rebuking you is not enough

One thing you taught we shall forever thank you for:
you taught us to come together
– many of us, over many miles –
to discuss together how to respond collectively to you.
That has been good for us and for our lands.
It will be remembered as a credit to your influence.

We decided something you will not understand at first
but then you will understand.

We decided that you must go.

All non-Indigenous persons in these lands must leave them.
This will be expensive
and you may have to look to your government to assist you
but go you must.

Since 1788
you have been as guests awaiting the invitation to stay.
Many of us assumed all along
as you did
that the invitation would be forthcoming in due course.
Now we have agreed otherwise:
it will not be.

These are our terms:
you have one year to leave
each of you
to tie up your affairs and get out of our lands.
We shall do our best to negotiate with your government
but in a year and a day
we shall hold you each responsible to be out of this place.

For one more year we shall remain generous and civil to you
because we know you are leaving.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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